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Bullying in the Workplace

Bullying in the Workplace

For many of us, the idea of bullying seems like a solely juvenile concept; a relic of the playground that is left behind after we leave school. However, this is not the case. Unfortunately, bullying can affect people no matter what their age and develop in any environment. In this blog we’ll be touching upon the phenomena of bullying in the workplace and how it can negatively impact the work environment.  

What is bullying in the workplace? 

Bullying in the workplace is, put simply, any form of bullying behaviour that takes place in a workplace environment. Just like with school-based bullying, workplace bullying can take a variety of forms and methods but is always characterised by aggressive or antagonising behaviour that involves a perpetrator and a victim.  

However, the difference in workplace bullying is that it is performed by adults. This key detail presents its own unique set of characteristics and challenges as adults interact with each other in a dramatically different way to children.  

Features of workplace bullying 

Bullying happens in a different way within adults. Some of the features of bullying in the workplace include: 

  • Verbal Bullying – While verbal bullying is still present, it rarely takes the form of name-calling or overt insults. Instead, verbal bullying tends to manifest as passive-aggression or oblique remarks. This difference largely stems from a child’s inability to understand the concept of subtext as compared to an adult. Plus, it can cause or exacerbate a toxic work environment.  
  • Targeted Antagonisation: Power – Bullying can also develop because of a manager or senior member of the team exerting their power in a deliberately negative way. This type of bullying can begin from a catalyst or inciting incident such as a refusal to work overtime or a challenge to authority. Examples of this include denying holiday requests, overloading with work, or always placing someone on a closing shift.  
  • Targeted Antagonisation: Colleague – Targeted antagonisation can also be perpetrated by members of one’s own team. If a group of colleagues decide to form a clique, they can use this united position to exclude or ostracise members of the team. In addition, this bullying can spread outside of the work environment as the clique could continue to antagonise their victim at events. For example, Christmas parties and corporate days out.  

How to deal with workplace bullying 

If you feel you are a victim of workplace bullying, don’t despair. Like with all forms of bullying, it can be dealt with and addressed. In some respects, it is easier to resolve bullying in the workplace than bullying in the playground. This is because, in theory, an adult can see reason and can be encouraged to act more maturely than a child. 

The first step you should always take is to speak to the aggressor directly. This is vital as it can help you be sure that what you are experiencing. The situation may be a misunderstanding and you may be able to resolve the problem that you have in an amicable manner. In addition, attempting to tackle the issue in this way sets you up well for any further escalation as you have tried to sort it out before taking it further.  

If this fails to help you should contact your HR representative at your place of work. The human resources department is, as the name suggests, concerned with managing the people in any organisation. Part of this responsibility includes assuming the role of an arbiter in any inter-colleague conflict. Once you set up a meeting with them and explain your concerns, they should be able to help you contact your bully or bullies and resolve the problem.   

The next step if you can’t come to a solution with HR is to take it as high as you can. Whether this is the owner or the chairman or the regional manager, you should seek to make your voice known to the most senior member of the company possible. This should only be a last resort and there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to get through to the upper echelons. However, if all else fails it is important to exhaust every avenue of help you can.  

Spotting the warning signs

Nowadays, we are all much more aware of good mental health. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of the effects and warning signs that workplace bullying is taking place. The harm a toxic work environment can have on you cannot be overstated and can even spill into your home life as well.  

In the future, we hope that companies and businesses try to act with compassion towards their staff and stamp out bullying in the workplace wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head. 

Today’s Guest Blogger

Thank you to guest blogger, Gayleen Hodson, for this blog supporting Anti-bullying Week this week and sharing her insights into workplace bullying.

Help and Support

If you need support, please reach out. Don’t suffer alone.

We can help with non-crisis interventions. Dorset Mind offers group support that can also help with your wellbeing. The group offers peer support and helps to reduce stigma by normalising conversations about mental health. You can also check out further support for stress and mental health here. You’ll find links for 1-2-1 and groups mental health support we offer here. 

If you are struggling to cope with your mental health in general, please talk to your GP. If you’re in a crisis, treat it as an emergency. Call 999 immediately or The Samaritans, FREE on 116 123. NHS Dorset’s Helpline ‘Connection’ can be reached on 0800 652 0190. It’s also available 24/7.



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